Anti-political mood softens as world “part overcomes, part assimilates the pandemic”

Nov 18th, 2021 | By | Category: In Brief
“Abstract Composition #5” (Looking Up) by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, November 2021.


I am just down from the new north on a visit, communing with the head office staff, reintegrating into the mind of the herd, and enjoying unusually brilliant autumn colours here on the northwest shore of the smallest Great Lake, west of Frenchman’s Bay.

I was asked what do I make now of my confession not quite a month ago, “An anti-political mood descends across the land (or at least the part of it I live in)”? I was given my old office to work in for the time being. And I looked east out the window at dark gold and deep red leaves on and off maple trees.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) and Alberta Prmier Jason Kenney bump elbows during a joint federal-provincial announcement of $10-a-day daycare at Boyle Street Plaza in Edmonton, on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. Photo by Ian Kucerak.

It was enough to remind me that on Monday I saw Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Premier Jason Kenney together in Edmonton, announcing Alberta’s accession to the federal government’s crusade for “$10 a day child care for Canadian families.” All provinces but Ontario and New Brunswick have now signed on. The finish line is in sight.

It is true that, as reported by the mainstream media, eg, “Alberta premier snipes at Trudeau as province signs on to $10-day child-care deal” (Canadian Press) and “Justin Trudeau and Jason Kenney trade shots at testy child-care announcement” (Toronto Star).

But I guess I tuned into the Edmonton event on TV after Premier Kenney’s most pointed remarks. I saw at least some diplomacy on both sides. It all seemed almost civilized. The francophone media asked Premier Kenney a question in French, and he answered in French. (Something the current Premier of Ontario would and could never do!)

Other officials were present, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland (born and raised in Alberta but now sitting in Parliament for THE upscale neighbourhood in deep downtown Toronto). Trudeau and Kenney politely touched elbows at the end, almost in a friendly way.

President Biden signs Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, surrounded by lawmakers and Cabinet members at White House ceremony, November 15, 2021. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.)

Meanwhile, south of the border Anne Applebaum has an article in The Atlantic called “The Bad Guys are Winning.” And I do worry about this myself in too many parts of the world.

At the same time, I am impressed that the US Congress has at very long last passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, with bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House. And President Biden has now signed the bill into law. (Trump kept saying he would do this, but he never did.)

On the same day US President Biden had an apparently friendly enough Zoom meeting (or something of that sort) with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Whatever else, these two well-seasoned high political veterans seem to know and respect (and even half-like?) each other. Who knows? This may sometimes calm things down, and even prevent pointless wars.

The economic numbers in the USA (and Canada and so forth) are, if anything, surprisingly strong, considering the global pandemic. Inflation is suddenly surging in Europe as in North America. As Larry Summers seems to say, this no doubt has something to do with public policies to assist those vast numbers hit hardest by the economic consequences of the pandemic.

President Joe Biden listens while meeting virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, November 15, 2021. SARAH SILBIGER/UPI/BLOOMBERG/GETTY.

Yet it is not much more than common sense to also see the new inflation as a general increase in consumer prices, brought on by private-sector adjustments to both the pandemic, and various broader changes in everyday life “as the world part overcomes, part assimilates the pandemic” (James Meek, “On the Boil,”London Review of Books, 7 October 2021).

There is, as just one of many cases in point, widespread agreement that the “frontline workers” who have risked most over the past two years deserve better pay. If the fine people who have worked fearlessly through the pandemic in the city grocery store I frequent are going to be paid more, to take an example I know first hand, someone is going to have to pay them.

In the very end there is nothing and no one else to pay the workers more in the grocery store I frequent than me, through higher consumer prices. That is another key ingredient in the new inflation. It applies as well to long-term care homes and services, bars and restaurants, even gas at the gas station, and on and on and on and on …

Prime ministers of India and UK at the end of COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland — right-wing heirs of the old empire on which the sun never set. Is this what Anne Applebaum means when she says “The Bad Guys are Winning”?

Again, I certainly agree that there remains much to be worried about. In the United States, eg, “Poll: Republicans hold largest edge in early midterm vote preferences in 40 years.” In Canada, “BC declares state of emergency in wake of devastating flooding, mudslides.”

But I have been at least slightly re-inspired to look on the bright side. I’m vaguely encouraged that the presidents of the United States and Mexico and the prime minister of Canada will be meeting November 18, 2021 — for the first time in five years.

The Canadian mainstream media started to call this the return of the old “Three Amigos” (ultimately alluding to the title of a 1986 movie with Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Canada’s own Martin Short). But the US media seems not into such frivolity in November 2021, and maybe not very interested in North American free trade right now.

“Doug Ford announces plan for Ontario to build 400,000 electric cars by 2030,” Guelph, Ontario, November 17, 2021.

And yet this morning on TV I heard Ontario’s Conservative premier talk about how he and all the other provincial premiers were shoulder to shoulder with PM Justin Trudeau and the Canadian federal government.

As it struggles to make clear in Washington that Buy America provisions in the current US draft Build Back Better bill will hurt key American states that do big business with Canadian provinces, just as much as they hurt Canadian and Mexican workers.

Meanwhile again, out among the falling autumn leaves, the sun will rise on another day. It’s not all terrible, toxic, and tragic. There are still enough reasons to (as Jesse Jackson Sr used to say) “Keep Hope Alive.”

On good mornings at any rate, that’s what I make now of my confession not quite a month ago, “An anti-political mood descends across the land.”

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